Friday, June 28, 2013

Jesus wept


When former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee heard this week that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, he says his first thought was "Jesus wept."
Dear Friends,
My immediate thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: "Jesus wept." Five people in robes said they are bigger than the voters of California and Congress combined. And bigger than God. May He forgive us all.

The quotation referred to John 11:35, which happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible. It is the bases for a lovely round by the American composer William Billings (1746-1800) and here performed by the Hastings College Choir:

In the passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus weeps at the death of his close friend Lazarus. Weeping doesn't necessarily make sense, given that Jesus then proceeds to raise Lazarus from the dead, but  we can infer that Jesus was weeping at the human condition.* Yes, there is much joy in life, but there is sadness, too: death, separation, disease, suffering, blighted potential. We are dust, and to dust we shall return, and even with the promise of the resurrection that's still enough cause to weep sometimes. If we expand our scope from the verse to its context, it's clearly not about rule-breaking, it's about compassion. And if we expand our scope from the story to the whole gospel of John (or any other gospel), we find pretty much the same thing. Jesus's statements, and his actions, commend to us "positive morality" i.e. actively doing good to others. There are few commands not to do things, and for that matter very little condemnation... with the notable exception of the powerful religious leaders. The point is that Jesus is not weeping because a traditional rule is broken. He broke a few himself, harvesting food on the Sabbath and regularly challenging the religious hierarchy of his day. Jesus is not weeping at the inclusion of an excluded group. He included, relentlessly and radically, dining with tax collectors and conversing with the Samaritan woman at the well. If Jesus wept at the DOMA decision, he was weeping, along with so many others, tears of joy. *-I can't remember to whom I owe this insight. I thought it might be my Pastor Gayle Wilcox, who preached on the death of Lazarus March 3, but upon re-listening I realize she had a different message. It's a good sermon anyway.

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